Lansing nixes numerous criminal penalties, including regulation on drug paraphernalia

LANSING – Possession of drug paraphernalia will no longer be a criminal offense after a vote by the city council on Monday evening following the Lansing Ordinance.

The 5-3 vote was part of a move by Councilor Brian Jackson to repeal a variety of offense regulations that were described as overarching, obsolete, or obsolete. The reforms, Jackson said, are designed to reduce over-policing and over-criminalization.

It will still be possible to be arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia in Lansing as the state crime continues to be illegal even if someone is not caught with illegal drugs on their person.

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But Jackson said he hoped the removal of local ordinance will send the message that Lansing is treating drug addiction as a “public health problem” rather than a criminal problem.

He said he wanted to deter prosecutors from incriminating people with excessive charges, which would result in jail sentences, lost wages and an illness on someone’s files.

“By getting rid of regulations that aren’t required for public safety, our officers can focus on the more serious things instead of some of the little, less serious things,” Jackson said.

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Drug paraphernalia is defined as an object used to grow, process, take, or distribute illegal drugs. It can be scales, pipes, trays, or containers such as plastic bags.

The criminalization of possession of drug paraphernalia is counterproductive from a public health point of view, officials at Lansing Syringe Access have told the council. LSA sells materials such as clean syringes and naloxone, the drug used to reverse opioid overdose.

Proponents say that if people fear being arrested, they will keep fewer clean syringes on hand and run the risk of spreading infections like HIV with dirty needles.

Councilors Jackson, Spitzley, Dunbar, Spadafore and Betz voted for repeal, and Councilors Carol Wood, Jeremy Garza and Adam Hussain voted for compliance.

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The council voted on Monday 6–2 Monday to repeal an ordinance banning “loitering in any place where controlled substances or drug paraphernalia are used or sold”. Garza and Wood voted against the repeal.

Another Lansing ordinance remains on the books prohibiting “visiting” a place where illegal drugs are stored or sold, as well as an ordinance prohibiting people from being admitted into a “drug house,” ie a place on controlled substances are distributed.

“Just being in a place where paraphernalia or drugs are used, sold or available and none of that should be a crime,” Jackson said.

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Earlier this year, Jackson, a former assistant district attorney who now works for the Ingham County’s public defender, proposed overturning more than a dozen misdemeanor orders, each with a sentence of up to 90 days in prison and / or a fine of 500 US dollars.

Some of the regulations targeted crimes that are already illegal under state law and made them obsolete, while others are outdated and rarely used by prosecutors, Jackson said. And many are “overseas,” Jackson said, which means that police and prosecutors can target people with discriminatory enforcement.

The city council voted this spring to repeal the following ordinances:

  • An ordinance prohibiting begging, defined as going door-to-door to solicit donations for personal gain in a public place; The American Civil Liberties Union has declared such ordinances unconstitutional, adding that anti-begging laws “punish the most vulnerable segment of our society.”
  • An ordinance that bans loitering in places where prostitution or incitement to lewd behavior takes place.
  • A regulation that bans gambling on the street.
  • An ordinance that punishes a parent who does not exercise adequate control over a minor resulting in a child to commit a crime or a parent who allows or encourages a child to commit a crime; “Contributing to child neglect or crime,” that is, encouraging or assisting a child to commit a crime, remains illegal under state law.
  • An ordinance banning bicycles in Riverfront Park during an organized event; Adado Riverfront Park was formerly known as Riverfront Park.
  • A regulation that prohibits borrowing money or anything of value from a student in a school.
  • A regulation that prohibits the use of profane language in a school building or an adjacent property

The council could repeal four more regulations after a public hearing on Monday. These ordinances criminalize being in a public park after hours, disturbing the peace with loud or boisterous behavior, defacing a tree on a street, lawn, or park, and bringing an animal or vehicle to a park to remove vegetation to damage.

Contact reporter Sarah Lehr at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SarahGLehr.

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